Anne Tyler once again captures the heart and soul of someone going through a trying time. This time, it’s Aaron…who lives an unremarkable life with an unremarkable woman…Dorothy. But, after Dorothy’s sudden death, Aaron’s period of adjustment offers more than just grief and depression. He simply cannot let Dorothy go. This is a touching, sweet book that is filled with heart and emotion. I found myself laughing at Aaron more than once…whether this was intentional humor on Tyler’s part… just the sad-sack, vulnerable ways of Aaron manifesting themselves as comic moments I do not know. I would like to think that Tyler wanted us to laugh at him a little…so he and her reader’s would try and take life a little less seriously. Tyler, who is known for her engaging and emotive character studies, really captures the soul of this wayward man. I would be hard pressed to say it is Tyler’s best work but it is one of her best.
Posts Tagged: Fiction
A fire races though a London private school and a mother rushes to save her daughter’s life. How the fire started provides the backdrop for this suspenseful thriller with paranormal aspects and graced with lyrical writing.
This novel with its realistic portrayal of contemporary families is heartbreaking in its tragic elements but appealing in its devotion to the protective instincts that are the core of the love between mothers and children. The twists and turns in the thriller are so well done that the culprit is revealed deftly in the final pages.
Readers of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Broken Harbor by Tana French will devour Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton.
Well, for one, unlike many European cities, London is seriously multicultural. VERY multicultural. And I’m not talking tourists. I’m talking residents. All races, religions, socioeconomic levels are on view throughout most parts of London. Yes, in some of the swankier sections (Knightsbridge, Mayfair to name two), most of the people have more than their fair share of Pound Sterling in their pockets. But, London is a mammoth, vast city with section upon section of diverse areas. Take Kensington…which borders ritzy area Knightsbridge and is not far from the also ritzy Chelsea. Kensington has more Indian restaurants than British restaurants it seems. The Indian dish Chicken tikka masala, not fish and chips, is even London’s honorary national meal. When we think British, we think Protestant and white. In the countryside, maybe…but not in London.
Let’s move on to London’s fascinating history. Unlike our cities in this country, London has recorded history dating back thousands of years. Yes…thousands. From the Romans who founded the city as Londinium to the Anglo-Saxons to the Tudors, every corner of London bears some history worth repeating. The formally-walled “City of London” is the present-day financial center of the capital and is one of the 32 boroughs of London. There are still places within The City, or Square Mile, as it is sometimes called, where you can see some of the London Wall, first built around The City by the Romans. Just to the east of The City lies Whitechapel, the former stomping grounds of that vicious deviant Jack the Ripper, who killed at least five prostitutes in the late 1880s. And on the other side of the River Thames (which throughout much of history, was wider than the present-day river running through London today), there is the George Inn in Southwark…a pub that can date it’s history back to the 17th Century. Yes, that’s right…the 1600s. No, the George we see today is not the exact same one from the 1600s, but there has been a pub on that site for almost 400 years! That’s a lot of pints!
Lastly, let’s look at London’s cultural side. Most major cities can boast opera houses and a smattering of theaters and maybe one or two concert venues. But, London is the HOME of the stage production…with its West End surpassing our Broadway in both longevity, history and profitability. Many famed Broadway productions began as West End productions…and many acclaimed actors and actresses got their start on the London stage.
As the Summer Olympics approach (the opening ceremonies are on July 27), we thought everyone might want to get into a LONDON frame of mind to prepare. Here are some books and authors that might fit the bill:
Set during both WWII and in the mid-1980s, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an exceptional novel about a time in history American we are too willing to forget…the internment of Japanese Americans during the war. Set in Seattle, Hotel focuses around main character Henry, who is a young 12-year-old Chinese American boy in 1942, where much of the book takes place. During these historical chapters, he meets Keiko, a Japanese girl who is a second generation American. They both start out apprehensive of each other (Henry’s father loathes the Japanese) but eventually grow to care deeply for each other. When Keiko and her family, along with all of the other Japanese families, are rounded up and moved to camps set up by the American government, Henry is not only unhappy but confused…confused since Keiko is more American than he is. Keiko does not even speak Japanese. This contrasts with Henry’s background…where his parents speak only Chinese and they force him to speak only “his English.”
I really liked this novel. It has one of the best, most moving stories I’ve read. Ever. Now, mind you, I am not saying this is the best book I have ever read. Why? What is the difference between “best story” and “best book?” Simple: the way it was written. As I was reading Hotel, I found myself thinking about another book I had read that was also set in the Pacific Northwest about Japanese Americans: Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. Even though Snow takes place AFTER WWII and Hotel focuses on events that happen DURING the war, I continued to make comparisons between the two while I was reading Hotel. Comparisons to the story and the location and the romantic elements…NOT comparisons to the writing. Guterson’s novel from 1994 is filled with lyrical prose that I remember submerging myself into and not wanting to escape from…vivid from page one to the end, brilliantly bringing to life an entire setting through the pages. The love story in Snow between the main characters is enhanced by the poetic words given to describe both them and their surroundings. Jamie Ford’s writing in Hotel is good…very good. It’s just not excellent. It’s the story in Hotel that you want to savor, not the prose. Had Ford brought to Hotel the expressive, inspired language Guterson used, Hotel might just have been a true literary masterpiece. But, having a minor masterpiece is still pretty good! It’s a great, page-turning read and a story that will stay with you long after the final page.
In a previous post, I spoke of all of the books I read on my iPad while on vacation. Here short reviews of the titles that I read:
Brett, Simon — The Body on the Beach – The first of Brett’s Fethering mysteries, this is a fun cozy mystery set in a smallish coastal town in the South of England. The two main characters become amateur sleuths as they investigate a body that one of them found on the beach.
Crombie, Deborah — Where Memories Lie – An intense mystery featuring Crombie’s English police team of Kincaid and James. This one involves a diamond brooch that was stolen by the Nazis and belongs to a woman who needs to get to the bottom of why people associated with the brooch are turning up dead.
Fielding, Joy — Missing Pieces – A page-turning thriller that also has its fair share of family drama. Married with teen kids, Kate is a therapist whose former flame has just reentered her life and sister is in love with a serial killer. As Kate’s home life continues to unravel, her sister makes some decisions that jeopardize all of their lives.
Keyes, Marian — Sushi for Beginners – Lisa finally gets the promotion she’s been waiting for…but it’s Dublin, Ireland…not NYC, where all the movers and shakers are. On the other hand, Ashling LOVES Dublin and her new job working for Lisa. As always with chick lit, there are several different men who add complication to the plot. LOTS of fun…as usual from Keyes.
Rendell, Ruth — Murder Being Once Done – Rendell’s Chief Inspector Wexford is at it once again…this time in London, where he’s recuperating after a heart attack. But Wexford doesn’t know the meaning of the word REST, especially when he stumbles into a case of multiple murders.
Wickham, Madeleine — The Gatecrasher – Wickham (who also writes under her pen name Sophie Kinsella) once again scores with a weightier, meatier tale than she writes as Kinsella. This time, she features a main character who crashes funerals, hoping the new widower will be wealthy. Vivid characters outshine Wickham’s plot…but still lots of fun!
Winspear, Jacqueline — A Lesson in Secrets – Winspear’s 8th outing with her continuing sleuth Maisie Dobbs, who’s a spunky young PI in England between WWI and WWII. This time, Maisie is undercover in a college when the principal is murdered. Dobbs then reveals her true identity as a detective and begins to solve the crime.
I was on vacation recently and read 10 books while away…8 being on my iPad. This is the first time I’ve done this. I mean I’ve tested opening the books and read one or two pages, but on the whole, it was the first true e-reading experience. And, I loved it. I used to travel with 4-5 paperback books that took up VALUABLE space in my suitcase (I have learned the hard way about packing so I pack VERY light now). Depending on the length of the trip, sometimes I would run out of books. So, I would head to local bookstore and buy some, which is money I could have been spending on crappy touristy trinkets. Also, as I finish the books, I leave them “on the road,” either in hotel libraries or I give them to fellow readers. So, basically, I’m spending money and forgoing luggage space on throwaway books. NOT ANYMORE! With my thin, lightweight iPad, I can pack on as many electronic books as I can store (thousands). And it ALWAYS takes up the same amount of space in my bag. And I have a plethora of choices…iBooks, Kindle (with the iPad app), NOOK (also with an app), Google Books, and, of course, books I downloaded from the library through both the Overdrive Media Console and the Bluefire apps. The prices of all of these books vary (the library ones were free, naturally) but spending money on books I will leave in my hotel room is even worse.
So basically, that’s my tale of love for my iPad and for e-books while on vacation.
At home, will I read books on my iPad from now on? I don’t think so…even with loving it as much as I do. Let me explain why.
First of all, there is the security factor that I have never been conscious of with books. Who cares if someone steals my $7.99 paperback…or even a library book for that matter, which might be $28.99. But, with my $499 iPad, I was constantly worried about this. I travel alone and when I was reading in a pub or restaurant, I would have to pack up my iPad, take it with me to the bathroom and then unpack it when I got back. When I used to have just a paperback on the table, I would leave it right out in the open while using the facilities.
Secondly, I was constantly afraid of getting the iPad wet. I was in England for most of my trip and we all know how English weather is…wet and damp. Yes, water is not a book’s best friend but again, a paperback getting drenched would be about an $8 hardship. Once more, the iPad’s price tag was getting in the way of my completely, unadulterated reading enjoyment.
Then, I had heard stories about how glare is a big problem for the iPad, whereas not a problem for people with non-glare “e-readers” such as the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes and Noble NOOK and the Sony Reader. When I was in St. Mark’s Square in Venice at an outdoor café and the sun was shining, I found out exactly how BIG this problem was. Quite big. I mean I could see the screen, but at times, it required a lot of adjustment. I had to increase the font size, increase the brightness of the screen and then just keep repositioning the iPad until I found the best position to see as much of the screen as possible. Suffice it to say, I didn’t sit at many outdoor cafés on sunny days.
Lastly, the most problematic experience with my iPad was when it just stopped working all of a sudden. I was away on a daytrip so I had to wait until I got back to my hotel to try charging it (even though when it conked out, it had about 60% of its charge left) to see if that brought it back to life. Nothing. So, I had to wait two days until I moved to a larger town where they had an authorized Apple service location. So, what did I do? I bought a book. A regular, ordinary, timeless, cheap book. With a book, there is never a “technical difficulty.” And if you lose it or it gets damaged, it doesn’t force you to take out a second mortgage to replace it.
Yes, the Apple service place was able to get my iPad up and running again (they had no clue what happened to it) so I was able to finish my trip reading off the iPad without having to exhaust Waterstones of their entire supply of Chick Lit and British Mysteries. But, until they devise something foolproof, while I’m at home, I will stick with a good ol’ fashioned book.
Faithful Place is not picture perfect Ireland. It is grim, Frank’s father is a nasty wife beating alcoholic and Frank’s brothers and sisters are highly dysfunctional. The neighbors generally distain the Mackey family and distrust of the police is high. How Frank comes to terms with his past and his intense love for Rosie in the solution of the crime creates great pacing and character development. The steadfastness of Frank supports the structure of the novel. The novel’s strength lies not only in the suspense but in French’s forceful examination of family dynamics in contemporary Ireland.